HL Deb 07 September 1841 vol 59 cc498-500
The Earl of Glengall

had to present to their Lordships a petition on a subject of considerable importance, to which he was anxious to call the attention of her Majesty's Government. It was from Dublin, and signed by about 1,000 inhabitants, merchants, bankers, and others, being householders and ratepayers in that city. The petitioners complained of several gross practices with respect to the burgess-roll, on the insertion of the names on which, roll was founded the right to vote for members and officers of the corporation. The subject was one which very naturally excited very strong feelings. The petition detailed such scenes of fraud and corruption as never before, he believed, had come before their Lordships, even from Ireland itself. The object of those fraudulent practices was to influence votes in the election of municipal officers. The burgess-roll was filled up, or ought to be, only with the names of those who were under assessments to the Poor-rates to the amount of 10l. a-year. Now, the petitioners complained, that gross frauds were practised to create a fictitious constituency; for this purpose many alterations were made, and names were so entered, that it was impossible for the revising-barrister to know who had the right to vote, and who had not; names were entered to give facilities for personation. The net annual value was also altered. Some who had been assessed at 7l. had that changed to 10l. Others again had an addition of 1l. 5s. 6d. made to the assessment, so as to bring it up to 10l. The fraudulent practices were, in a word, so various and so numerous, that it was almost impossible to get a correct list. How all those evils were to be remedied he did not know, but he supposed the subject should be investigated in some way. He believed, that by one clause of the Irish Municipal Corporation Act, the Lord-Lieutenant and Council had the power to grant time for the purpose of entering into inquiries, were such abuses were proved, in order to have the false entries corrected. He did not suppose their Lordships had any power to interfere, but nevertheless, he felt it his duty to bring the subject under their notice as one which had created immense excitement in Dublin. When the Irish Municipal Corporation Act was under discussion by their Lordships, he had in common with many other noble Lords, strongly objected to the city of Dublin in the bill, because he foresaw the gross practices which would be resorted to by one party to carry the elections of corporate officers their own way. The facts now stated in the petition before the House fully bore out all that he had anticipated. The struggle which he had foreseen had now commenced, and if the churchwardens and others in authority permitted such scenes, they would become partisans, and in a short time it would be seen, that the corporation of Dublin would be in the hands of Repealers and other agitators, that the Mansion-house would become the arena for those scenes which now usually took place at the Corn Exchange, and that in "the King's-room "questions would be discussed whether Ireland was to continue under the sway of a British Sovereign. The petitioners earnestly prayed their Lordships to take these matters into their consideration, and to do all in their power by inquiry to correct these gross abuses. If their Lordships had no power to interpose, why be it so; but he did hope that inquiry would be instituted in some quarter before the next month.

The Duke of Wellington

was obliged to the noble Earl for having called his attention to these matters, but the noble Earl must see, that the question was one in which the House of Lords had no power to interfere. If it was a question on which the activity of the Poor-law Commissioners of Ireland, or of the guardians of the poor, could be of use in putting an end to the grievances, then they ought to be required to lend their aid in any way they could. Or, if his noble Friend, the noble Earl, had said the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland in council had power to interfere, then that was the quarter to which application should be made. If, however, the noble Earl would give him a copy of the petition, he would direct that inquiry should be made into its allegations, and the practices to which they referred.

Lord Brougham

expressed his full concurrence in what had fallen from the noble Duke, that the House of Lords could not interfere in this matter. At the same time there could be no objection to the presentation of the petition, which properly enough prayed for inquiry.

The Duke of Wellington

did not in any degree blame his noble Friend for presenting the petition, or for calling the attention of Government to it—quite the contrary. The petition was no doubt a very proper one. All that he said was, that it was a matter in which he did not think that their Lordships had any power to interfere.

Petition to lie on the Table.